UK-Based Filmmaker: It's How You Tell The Story
T&T-born Ann Marie Goodwin might not be a household name in the land of her birth, but have you heard of the TV show Caribbean Cops? How about Temptation Island? Or Celebrity Big Brother? Goodwin, a former BBC producer and director, is now an independent and keen on making what she considers "worthy" projects, she said during a recent interview at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company office in Port-of-Spain.
"From my perspective what I've seen happen over the years is there's been a narrowing of interest in the TV and film world," she said.
"Broadcasters and big production companies are less likely to green-light projects about unfamiliar topics. It's come about from the fact that people have become more insular. As a filmmaker you have to find the thing about you that's the same as them, and that's how you tell the story. You almost always are looking for some kind of peg that makes people see that 'this story is my story too'. Find that theme, find the resonances, and tell the story about you within that frame."
Goodwin emigrated to the UK as Ann Marie Roberts during the 1970s, fresh out of St Joseph's Convent. Her plan was to become a chemist, then an accountant, but changed paths in her late 20s to study journalism at the Polytechnic of Central London. She went on to work as a researcher on the Education Unit of the BBC. One of the series she worked on took her to Kenya to do an educational series on life in the African country. It was a tool to help English children understand that Africa wasn't just one thing—demonstrating the transformative potential of film and TV.
By the early 2000s she had left the BBC, having passed through the Social Programme Unit, the Natural History Unit, and the News and Current Affairs Unit as a producer/director at the prestigious UK broadcast company.
Goodwin, now 53, is currently producer/director of a work in progress called Shoeshine Girls. It is a documentary about women in Bolivia who scrape a living on the streets by shining shoes. The film is being made by Woolfcub, a small production company with which she made the film The Cable last year. (Tasters, excerpts longer than trailers, for both films are on the movie sharing website Vimeo.)
This is the kind of programme she wants to make more of, but says TV now is dominated by series like Temptation Island and her biggest hit, Caribbean Cops. Both reality shows, Temptation Island put couples on an island surrounded by tempting singles; while Caribbean Cops was a look at the daily work of police in the Caribbean islands of St Lucia, Trinidad and Jamaica. Both were smash hits and Caribbean Cops is still in syndication.
"When I'm feeling generous about my career I would say these programmes fill a role. They allow us to think whether we would behave that way, to put ourselves in that person's shoes and think about what we would be willing to live with, allow, tolerate, so it still has that spirit of using the medium to educate and inform. When I'm not being so generous I say it pays the bills and allows me to make nice worthy TV for no money," said Goodwin. Shoeshine Girls will bring to light the lives of the Bolivian poor, proving that it is possible to tell stories from Latin America and the Caribbean to European and other audiences, despite gatekeepers who might not encourage the telling of such diverse stories.
To aspiring T&T filmmakers she advised they "get out there and make alliances… Internationally there are swathes of places you can get money. Your job is to get your name in all those places. The days when a broadcaster will fund a programme are gone, gone, gone." Instead, "crowd sourcing" is the new way, getting grants from many different sources, including charities, arts councils and other bodies. In Europe and the UK, she said, such investors recognise the value of artistic endeavour and are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
"You can tell how civilised the place is by how it treats its culture and the arts." She ask of Trinidad and Tobago, "How civilised are you? Profit is not everything. You have to put back. You have to invest" in the arts, culture and film.
For more information on the T&T Film Industry visit www.trinidadandtobagofilm.com or call 625 FILM (3456).